Vision of WEDC outlined to council

By Karen Fallon

In 2010 the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation is touted to have saved 3,500 jobs in the region by working with existing small businesses.

Ron Gaudet and Karolyn Harts from WEDC shared with council the organizations vision and focus for the region.

There are five pillars of the organization, says Gaudet.

The first is small business and entrepreneurship  in the region.

The second is business retention.

Gaudet says the organization helped to retain 3,500 jobs in 2010 through intervention with business in the region.

“This doesn’t get a lot of attention; it doesn’t get  lot of press, but I can assure you that if 3,500 jobs had left the region it would have been front page news, so we are proud of that effort,” said Gaudet

According to Gaudet the third element does tend to get the press – business attraction and trying to bring new investment into the region, which he says has been “successful” in the past few years.

“It is the sizzle in economic development but I humbly submit it is not the most important element,” he said. “If we are not creating an entrepreneurial culture; if we are not working on community development projects then we will not be able to attract investment into this region.

The fourth pillar, he says, comes through the hiring of  a vice-president who “embodies community development.”

The fifth is the retention of local youth who graduate from local colleges and the university.

“We are trying to stop that brain drain,” said Gaudet.

Regional collaboration and marketing the region are also high on the priority list for the development commission, says Gaudet.

A national and international campaign that will “message the Windsor Essex story will be appearing very, very soon,” he continued.

Working with the wine industry to promote the local vineyards while creating a collaborative work environment is important to this area, says Hart.

“Within the office we do not have one project or initiative that does not have a community partner,” said Harts. “We are not an island we are working very closely with stake holders and non-profit…anyone who is out there.”

“I don’t think any of the ideas you talked about today are new to this community,” said Councillor John Sutton. “But I think you are looking at a new approach and that is going out to the partners and saying what they need to bring to the table to make that work.”

“I am hopeful that the new approach to those old ideas will bear some fruit, because Lord knows we really do need to work together as a region if we are going to turn this economic corner,” he continued.

Councilor Davies agreed: “ We have been a hidden treasure for a long, long time…it’s quite interesting to see the people who are discovering it.”

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